On 9 April 2002, eighty-five members of the US House of Representatives established the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, a bi-partisan group, which will help increase the awareness of issues impacting the relations between the US and Taiwan.
The group will focus on "the concrete steps that Congress can take to enhance and strengthen this important economic, political, cultural and strategic relationship," Congressman Robert Wexler said at the official launch of the caucus. "The caucus will also serve as a forum to educate members of Congress on issues affecting US-Taiwan relations as well as play a constructive role in monitoring and supporting peaceful cross-strait discussions between Taipei and Beijing," he said.
"Finally, the caucus will serve as a medium by which legislators from the United States and Taiwan can formally exchange ideas and policy concerns," Wexler said. He said the group does not have plans at present to initiate Taiwan-related legislation, although finding ways to help Taiwan's bid to participate in international organizations is expected to be a priority.
"Members of the caucus will seek the administration's endorsement of Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization," said co-founder Sherrod Brown. "With the creation of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, I am confident we will accomplish our goals and establish Taiwan as an active member of the international community," he said. The other two co-founders are Dana Rohrabacher and Steve Chabot. A group of legislators from Taiwan, led by Trong Chai, were present at the launch in the Capitol.
Prior to the press conference where the caucus was announced, a meeting was held to discuss its future direction. The caucus is led by four joint chairmen, and three of them Sherrod Brown, a Democrat; Steve Chabot, a Republican; and Dana Rohrabacher, also a Republican took part in the meeting.
Rohrabacher said that the US has been preoccupied with its war against terror following the Sept. 11 attacks, but to achieve the goal of long-term national security, other threats must not be ignored. He went on to say that stability in Taiwan and the Pacific region is in the long-term interest of the US, and that the Taiwanese experience sets a good example for the future development of China.
Chabot said that Taiwan, one of its most loyal allies, is special to the US. He continued to say that Taiwan is the US' seventh largest trading partner and the 14th largest trading nation in the world, and that the Taiwan caucus would in future do its utmost to promote US-Taiwan relations.
On 19 March 2002, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed by two-thirds vote a resolution urging the Bush administration to support Taiwan's bid to rejoin the World Health Organization as an observer. An amendment to Public Law 107-10, House Resolution 2739 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2001.
On 4 April 2002, President Bush signed the Bill into law. The bill authorizes the Secretary of State to initiate a United States plan to endorse and obtain observer status for Taiwan at the annual week-long summit of the World Health Assembly in May 2002 and asks the Secretary of State to submit a written report on the plan to Congress within 14 days after the Act's enactment.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien conveyed his gratitude to the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament for their staunch support of this, the country's latest bid to gain WHO observer status.
Taiwan was forced to leave the WHO in 1972 after 24 years as a full member and cofounder of the international health body when the PRC was granted China's seat in the United Nations. Since then, Beijing has adamantly opposed Taiwan's entry to any international organization for which statehood is a membership requirement.
In 1997 Taiwan began to lobby for observer status in the health body, arguing that the health of the 23 million people living on the island should take precedence over political semantics and international one-upmanship. This effort has been defeated six times due to pressure from China.
In related news, a Taipei-based newspaper reported that several members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party are calling on Beijing to support this latest effort to join the organization. "Supporting Taiwan's WHO bid would serve as the best icebreaker for cross-strait relations," said DPP Legislator Lai Ching-teh of his entreaty to Beijing. Not unexpectedly, Beijing refused.
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